Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney led an international celebration of his works as his words were echoed by translators around the world last night
The Derry-born poet and playwright, who celebrates his 74th birthday tomorrow showed no signs of slowing down as he read from his works at Trinity College's chapel to launch the university's new Centre for Literary Translation.
After reading from a selection of his poems, including 'The Settle Bed', 'Squarings' and an English translation of 'Colum Cille Cecinit' he sat transfixed as he listened to Russian poet Grigory Kruzhkov read the same poems back in his native tongue, followed by other translators reading his words in Polish, Italian, Spanish and Hungarian.
His vast collection of poetry, for which he was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature has been translated into at least 20 languages: a feat that Mr Heaney's Italian editor and translator Anna Ravano described as no easy task.
"To reproduce some of the sound effects in Seamus Heaney's poetry, which involve meaning and the general atmosphere of the poem – is difficult," she said.
As for hearing his own words read back to him in different languages, Mr Heaney told the Irish Independent: "I trust the people who are picked to do it. I've been very lucky."
However, he admitted that translating poetry is tricky.
"There is a debate about whether poetry is lost in translation... You lose the actual language alright. But on the other hand you could say that poetry is what's found in translation. Because for word of poetry without translation, we would be nowhere."